Landlines Are Inexplicably Awful


by Samuel Greengard

Several years ago, I signed up for digital phone service that Comcast had just introduced. It initially had a few bugs but it now works great. No complaints there. But why in the age of VoIP and computer-telephony integration does Comcast not support anything more than an analog phone?

I remember a nifty program called Hot Line that I used in the 1980s. It let you create a phone directory on your PC and click to dial the number with you modem. Fast forward 25 years and I'm back to constantly punching numbers into a phone.

Mobile phones dial by name or let you click a number at a website and skip the numerical input. So, why do Comcast and other cable phone providers still force customers to stick with 75-year-old technology? The question is even more confounding when you consider that the connection from the cable modem to the switch at the other end is shuffling internet protocol packets. Cable providers convert the signal to analog at the modem.

This isn't back to the future. It's way back to the past. Memo to Comcast: somewhere between 20 and 30 million people in the U.S. work at home at least one day each week.

Mobile phones have siphoned off subscribers from landline phones because they're way more convenient. Perhaps a way to compete is to make a landline more attractive by adding computer telephony integration and all sorts of cool bells and whistles?

I called Comcast. A rep explained that this feature simply isn't available. I called back and a second rep says that I should consider buying a device called MagicJack.

Fine, except that I don't want another phone service that costs more money and adds another layer of complexity to my calling. Even the company's Business Class Voice service comes up blank in this department. Imagine that.

It's no wonder that companies like Vonage and Skype have managed to gain such a strong foothold on the telephony market. It's no wonder that people are abandoning landlines as if they caused dysentery. It's really simple: if you don't innovate and you fall hopelessly behind the technology curve you lose.


4 Comments for "Landlines Are Inexplicably Awful"

  • Marc Thibault October 03, 2011 9:43 am

    It may be that I'm too close to 70 and my memory is failing, but I can't remember the last time I used a land line. It's been over five years since we had one at all, ten years before that when our only "black phone, no features" was hooked to a fax and never used for outgoing calls. Now with Skype and Google Voice and GoToMeeting, our cell phone usage is plummetting like sheep from trees. Who was it said, "the future is here, it's just not evenly-distributed?"

  • Irving Motrotz September 28, 2011 10:30 pm

    >>Why in the age of VoIP and computer-telephony integration does Comcast not support anything more than an analog phone? Maybe because IP-based telephony (VOIP) has all of the risks of walking through a bad neighborhood in a big city at night, while analog phone is FAR LESS risky! Does anyone read the trade journals and understand the malware and other risks involved with the Internet? The Internet was a commercialization of the ARPAnet which had NO SECURITY built into it. The ARPAnet was an R&D project - pure and simple. It was/is NOT the latent commercial product the marketing weenies turned it into! Next time, try listening to the engineers who have designed something not to the marketing weenies trying to sell something just to make a buck!

  • SunGlassesTK12 September 28, 2011 2:25 am

    Although, I agree that technology has advanced a lot in regards to the how people communicate with each other nowadays, however I still love my landline phone. I personally do not understand why many people have abandoned the idea of having a landline phone to use. There is nothing wrong with having a landline in addition to having or using the more advance ways of communicating with people whether it is via computers, emails, cell phones, real time videos, etc. My opinion is that it is good to have all those technologically advance ways to communicate with individuals, in addition to the landline as well, just in case the more technologically advanced ways of communicating are not functioning properly, the battery is dead, or whatever the case may be.

  • ppindia September 28, 2011 12:40 am

    Have you heard of ISDN...it was dreamed way back in 1980...with facility for video call, internet multiple phones etc.....but mobile technology has overtaken those and wireless is the way to go....I think you are the one who has to get rid of that old phone ;)

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